Interfaith group comes together to help YWCA
Michael Korenblit and Naila Aziz swapped stories and jokes about parenthood as they cleaned and organized toys and wooden puzzles in a local nonprofit's children's play area.
Korenblit, who is Jewish, and Aziz, who is Muslim, worked side-by-side not only because they wanted to aid the YWCA of Oklahoma City — they wanted to help together.
The two were among a group of people from different faiths who participated in a community service project at the Y on a recent Sunday afternoon.
They were part of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma's Many Beliefs Serving Together community service group which brings people of faith or no faith together to serve the community-at-large.
The group divided up into teams to do some weeding and gardening; sanitize the YWCA's public areas, sanitize and organize the client shelter; and clean windows and tidy the food pantry.
Julia Phillips and Ayesha Satter, coordinators of the recent project, said Many Beliefs Serving Together has worked together at Love Links Ministries-OKC and the Regional Food Bank of Central Oklahoma in the last several months.
Phillips said coming together for a common purpose is a way to build lasting relationships between people of different backgrounds.
"I personally feel like it's easier to get to know each other by working on something together — it's more informal. It just becomes very natural," she said.
She said the service projects and the resulting friendships that form help the community but also combat stereotypes. Phillips said this is particularly needed in the wake of events like the recent fatal attack on two New Zealand mosques.
"To me, this is like the antidote to that stuff, to the hatred, because we're not just coming together to to make friends, but we're trying to do something to make our community better — because of our shared values," Phillips said.
Ayesa Satter said all of the project's participants wanted to aid the YWCA because of its commitment to serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
"These are the most vulnerable of our society, women and children," she said.
Maaz Khan, a University of Oklahoma senior who is Muslim, said he participated in last year's service project at the YWCA and wanted to offer his help again.
"It's a nice way to spend your weekend. You feel like you're a part of a larger effort," he said.
"There are different faiths here. With everything that's going on, it's a nice way to develop solidarity."